The request in the previous issue of Clan Chattan from Alexander Failo Gollan for information on his family was intriguing for the editors for several reasons. First, because as far they could see nothing of this kind had hitherto appeared in our Clan Journal, which dates back to 1934. Further, there has only been a handful of members with this name in CCA throughout all those years and currently there are only two. Perhaps this is not surprising when two of the principal Clan Chattan historians, Charles Fraser-Mackintosh and A. M. Mackintosh, in their published accounts of the confederation do not even mention the name Gollan. Yet to anyone who has looked at the Old Parish records, or looked in the graveyards of Dores, Dunlichity and Ardersier, the name is not unfamiliar and Gollans are seen to have intermarried with MacBeans, Mackintoshes and MacGillivrays. Assuredly the Gollans, in the North of our Clan territory, did become members of the Clan Chattan by absorption at least.
This would seem to be recognised by the inclusion of Gollan under Clan Mackintosh in the list of Clans, septs and families, which appears regularly at the beginning of each of our Journal. But this also raises a question. It was not until issue No.1of volume V, for 1965, that the name is to be found there. When the list of adherents appeared in the first issue in 1943 it was said to be based on the work of four “authorities”: viz. Brown’s History of the Highlands”, A.M. Mackintosh’s The Mackintosh and Clan Chattan”, Frank Adams’s “The Clans, Septs and regiments of the Scottish Highlands” and Eyre-Todd’s “The Highland Clans of Scotland”. As a result Gollan was not included. It was subsequently introduced by the editor, the late and highly respected Col M.B.H. Ritchie: but why he did so is not explained in that or later issues. Perhaps one of our members could shed some light on the matter?
Who then are the Gollans? The earliest mention of them in the Highlands appears to be found in the “Records of Inverness” where there are numerous references to individuals who are not doubt related. Mungo Gollan is described in 1573 as a burgess (a citizen or freeman of a burgh) of Rosemarkie, on the Black Isle, and tenant of the Bishop of Ross. The others however were well established in Inverness. Thomas Gollan appears between 1556 and 1565 as a burgess and member of the Council. In 1561 he was cited for not attending meetings of the Council but gave as his excuse for refusing to do so, that “what was spoken in the cunsall was openlie spokin throcht the towne and at the mercate croce”. Neither wonder the Council ordained that anything spoken in the Council should not be repeat outside. One thing clear about Thomas is that he could write his own name in witnessing documents; others had add “with my hand at the pen led” by a lawyer. By 1565 Thomas had died.
Gilbert Gollan is another frequently mentioned. Elected an official of the Council in 1558 (and rebuked in 1561 for using his office for selling ale!) he may have been the same Gilbert referred to as a burgess between 1568 and 1579. John Gollan, founded between 1565 and 1580, was another burgh official and a John Golland, perhaps the same, was “customer and uptacker of the toll pennie” in Inverness in 1603.
But not all Gollans were law-abiding members of society. James figures several times on record in the late 1550s in an unfavourable light, as do female bearers of the name. In 1582 James Roy, a common minstrel, laid a complaint against “Agnes Gollan youngar” alleging that playing as he past her house certain people came out and attacked him “drawing a great quantity of his blood”. Agnes was involved and found guilty, fine and sentenced to be “joggit and branckit throw the town” (i.e. chained and with an iron collar round her neck led through the streets of the town) for attacking and drawing blood from Thomas McAine Crom; a formidable lady indeed.
There were clearly several families of Gollans in Inverness by the end of the 16th century. Their origin is however difficult to place. G.F. Black, in “The surnames of Scotland”, gives the earliest recordings of the name in the Lowlands of Scotland: William de Colin, witness in Fife about 1216-24; William Gollan bailie in Linlithgow in 1359 and John Gollane, burgess of Stirling in 1366.
Black further states the name is taken from a place Gollan in Kinross-shire, the county adjacent to Fife. In the “Mackintosh Muniments” a witness to a Retour of Service in 1582 is given as Gilbert Gullane; perhaps the forementioned Gilbert. In giving the name Gullan, Black derives the surname from the village of Gullane in East Lothian, where the local pronunciation is Gill-in, not "Gool-an" as he renders it.
The surname is also found in England where it is believed to derive from the old Frankish first name Goscelin/Joscelyn. As a further complication there is generally held belief in the Highlands that the surname may come from a Gaelic source, possibly an equivalent of “Gallach” (alternatively written as Gollach), a term used to describe a stranger, a Lowland Scot or someone from Caithness to the North.
How then did this family come to be in Inverness? Did they take their name from the territorial feud of Gullane in the Lothians and come north through the medium of the Church, in the wake of the Dunbar family (Dunbar also being in the Lothians) who were Lairds of Dores at one point? Was the “Gullane” used in the 1582 document a misinterpretation by a clerk of the local pronunciation, or is the correct original which became mistranscribed as “Gollan”?
Whatever the family’s origin, when Parish records become available it is clear that at the end of the 18th century the Gollans were settled at Dores, on the shore of the Loch Ness. There they intermarried with the local clans – the Frasers, the MacTavishes, and MacKenzies- and those of Clan Chattan –the MacBeans, Mackintoshes and MacGillivrays.
In the cemetery at Dores there is a gravestone to Gilbert Gollan who died in 1841 at the age of 79. It is interesting to see, nearly three centuries later, the Christian name Gilbert still in the family even though it is not a common one in the Highlands. This stone, which describes Gilbert as a cousin of Gilbert Gollan of the Island of St Vincent in the West Indies, was erected by his son John Gollan of Gollanfield. The inscription also confirms that by this time the family was dispersing and members were seeking their fortunes furth of the Parish. This is already been shown by Alexander Failo Gollan who spoke about his own ancestor going to Argentina and his ancestor’s brothers, Robert and Donald, going to North America and Australia respectively about the same time as this other Gilbert was in the West Indies.
The name Gollanfield is that of a well-known property, to the east of Inverness, consisting of a manor house and hamlet; obviously called after the family. Kenneth Macrae, writing in his book “Northern narrative” (1955) about the walled graveyard at “Breakley”, says: “A tombstone in the cemetery is to the memory of a Mr. Gollan, who gave his name to the district of Gollanfield”. A recent intensive search of the graveyard did not find a Gollan grave but there are a number of gravestones, which are now unreadable. In “Monumental Inscriptions: Inverness District East”, published by the Scottish genealogy Society in 1990, information has been taken from a flat stone in “Breaklish Cemetery, Gollanfield” thus: “John G. Gollan..., Alexandrina...a 10y, Margaret ...a 18 y.” Perhaps this relates to the aforementioned John and to two daughters who died young.
Writing in the Scots Magazine for October 1994, Alasdair Steven says that many Gollans of Gollanfield emigrated and made names for themselves. He suggests the most celebrated was Spencer Herbert Gollan, born on a New Zealand sheep farm and later one of the wealthiest of Australian farmers. His racehorses were renowned and won many of the supreme events in New Zealand and Australia. He was also a winner in sculling, running, rifle and revolver shooting, boxing and golf – an accomplished athlete indeed.
To conclude this brief account on a positive note: as a result of his request for information last year, Alexander Failo Gollan has established contact with a distant cousin in the North. (Alexander Fraser)
It is hoped that this will enable him to learn more about one of the lesser known, but worthy, Septs of Mackintosh and of the Clan Chattan